Thursday, December 05, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Don Patten is well aware of the challenges he faces as MINET's new general manager. Increasing MINET's customer base is the top priority for the Sioux Falls, S.D., native.
September 17, 2013
MONMOUTH -- Sometimes you need an old-school approach to fix new-school technology.
At least that's what MINET's board of directors is hoping.
Stymied for years by a low customer base and towering debt, the Monmouth-Independence Network (MINET) board of directors has been looking for ways to get the company back on stable ground.
The hiring of new general manager Don Patten last month is the first step toward that goal, board vice president and Monmouth City Manager Scott McClure said.
Patten brings 35 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, with most of that coming from the business realm, offering much needed insight, David Clyne, Independence city manager and MINET board president, said.
"For me, we were looking for someone who, first and foremost, had a relevant business background," Clyne said. "Business know-how rather than technical know-how was the most important piece for me. Don has a history of building his own businesses and running a virtually identical business in Minnesota."
Patten came to MINET from Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) -- a municipally-owned cable and Internet provider -- in Winona, Minn.
In 11 years at HBC, Patten took the company from struggling startup to a major competitor in the triple-play -- cable, Internet and phone -- market in southeastern Minnesota.
Patten cut his teeth during the long distance telephone wars of the early 1980s with various telecom companies, some of whom no longer exist or were bought out by industry giants.
"I had a job in the communications industry a week before I graduated (college)," Patten said. "It wasn't very long after that that competition in the communications industry became a reality."
The South Dakota native brings his old-school experience in landlines and the beginnings of the cable industry to the state-of-the-art fiber optic domain of MINET.
Right now, MINET has 30 to 40 percent of its potential customer base, Patten said, and getting that number up to around 80 percent of the market is priority No. 1.
"You're always going to have 5 or so percent of people that won't be our customer for lord knows what, that's fine," Patten said. "If we can acquire the rightful customer base, not only will we stabilize the business -- which is our first and only goal -- then we'll have a lot more options about how to grow MINET."
There is no timeline, from MINET's board or Patten himself, on getting the customer base up to where it needs to be, but Patten says it is attainable.
A new focus on marketing the company, something Clyne admitted had been lacking, will be the catalyst for acquiring those new customers, Patten said.
"We need to be talking to everyone in the community very frequently, telling our story and sharing the difference between ourselves versus their other choices," he said. "I think we need a deliberate, consistent and ongoing marketing plan. We're going to start asking people to buy the product instead of waiting for them."
Patten labels himself as a leader, not a manager, and is a firm believer in being hands-on and investing time with each employee.
One of the keys for MINET is getting everyone to drink the Kool-Aid, Patten said.
"In order for MINET to succeed, they (employees) have to take ownership of the company and the results the company generates, good and bad," he said. "If you drink the Kool-Aid, we can succeed."
Who: Don Patten.
Title: New general manager, MINET.
Facts: Sioux Falls, S.D., native; 35 years in telecommunications; married for nearly 40 years to his wife, Nancy; has three children: Adam, Michael and Jennifer; poster child for workaholic; is a huge dog lover, green thumb, avid fisherman and self-diagnosed mediocre golfer.